The tiny Japanese community of Mishima was desperate to reverse its shrinking population so officials came up with what they hoped would be a game-changing plan: free cows.
Anyone willing to pack up and move to the remote southern village of 379 residents would get a no-cost calf or 500,000 yen ($4,900) in cash.
Mishima's bovine brainwave has fallen well short of expectations, however. "The programme has been going for more than 20 years, and so far there has only been one person who took us up on the cow, and that was two decades ago," village official Shingo Hidaka told AFP, adding the cash had only a handful of takers.Of course, most people living in cities could probably buy a cow if they wanted one, so a free cow is not too big a deal. What is interesting to me is the idea that it might somehow be a tragedy if these rural communities die out. Japan mirrors Italy and other low fertility countries in having young people head off to the cities, leaving the elderly to cling to the rural life as long as possible. Is that bad, or is it just part of the overall urban transition?